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About Performing Arts

It is a highly collaborative art form in which each individual discipline necessitates a shared understanding and tacit knowledge of related disciplines in order to enable multidisciplinary groups to produce successful performance outcomes, in both learning and professional contexts. Embodied knowledge is common to many CPAD disciplines but is a prominent feature in the development of performing artists as the body is a key instrument of expression and communication in many performance disciplines. The outcomes of performing arts processes rely on being presented to an audience and represent the summation of the work of all of the collaborators, not only the work of those that are active in a performance.

Students choose to learn in this study field for two main purposes, either to gain entry to the professional field of performing arts or to enter an allied field of employment that requires a performing arts knowledge and skills base (such as teaching performing arts subjects or performing arts-based community work). It includes degrees that are aimed at developing performance skills (such as circus, dance, acting, etc.) and technical and production skills (such as directing, playwrighting, dramaturgy, scenography, lighting, sound and audio-visual digital projections, etc.). However, many of these disciplines are also studied by students with the intention of applying the knowledge they have gained to other fields of employment (such as teaching, therapy, leadership, research, writing, journalism and retail, etc.).

Typical degrees that are offered

Actor, director, dramaturg, dancer, circus artist, technician, stage manager, production, rigger, lighting designer, sound designer, scenographer, teacher, opera singer, writer, TV presenter.

Typical occupations/employment students achieve

View and download the Overview of typical Performing Arts field related Generic and Subject-specific Competences

Learning Outcomes


As set out in the above, typical learning and teaching methodologies in the performing arts subject field of higher education include a high degree of inter-disciplinary learning and/or learning within a multi-disciplinary context. It usually involves a high degree of co-learning, co-creation and collaborative practice – as well as the development of a tacit knowledge of a range of related disciplines – where the individual specialism and/or creative capacity of each student contributes to a shared learning outcome of some kind, typically a performance (often presented to a public audience). An emphasis is often placed on developing the students’ ability to self-assess (often formatively) their own practice, and the practices of others, and to critically apply their understandings drawn from this process to their future practice. Many assessment processes in the performing arts subject field are dialogic in nature, so as to facilitate a tutorial overview that supports teaching staff in helping students to develop their creative and critical capacities. The example given below provides a good (and typical) example of how the creation and realisation of a developmental learning project with a performance outcome is structured to maximise student learning.   


The example given below is drawn from the Department of Circus, Dance, Dance Pedagogy, Opera and Acting at Stockholms konstnärliga högskola (Stockholm University of the Arts) – hereafter SKH – specifically the BA Circus programme.  

BA Circus Programme

In this element of the programme (Performance and Interpretation), students continue to develop their knowledge of, and practical techniques in, applied circus creation and performance. Students also explore the aesthetics and composition of circus and other performing and visual arts as a means of understanding, and critically reflecting upon, the ways in which ethical, social and political issues can be addressed through, and with, circus arts. The course also develops the student's knowledge of leadership related to producing and mounting a show. The students will apply the knowledge within the various sub-courses through independent work, tutor-led discussions and workshops.

The Context:

Second year BA circus students at SKH participate in a module entitled ‘Ensemble Project’: a collective creation process that leads to a contemporary circus performance in front of a public audience. Students are guided through the process by director/creators with the aim of learning methods for artistic creation, the pragmatic considerations of stage production, and the performance of their specialty discipline (for example, tight wire) for an audience. This type of project-centred educational experience is intended to provide a firm framework with clear goals (learning outcomes) that enable students to orient their interests and develop rich, personalised knowledge within their field. In the final year of their studies, students go on to develop individual ‘acts’ in their primary circus discipline, with which they will graduate into their professional work. This second-year project uniquely requires the students to achieve learning outcomes in collective practices. The assessment of pedagogic ‘success’ is conducted in dialogic reflection with the students themselves, towards an integrated understanding of recognising how the tensions and difficulties that arise through their experiences of creation and production were mediated and resolved. The assessment forms part of the learning outcomes and guides students towards future application of similar methods to overcome the inevitable complications of circus performance.

The Outline Brief: Performance Techniques

This course element contains analytical and practical work with different methods for composition for circus (aa well as other art forms). The course contains written and practical tasks that are presented on a continuous basis, both individually and in groups, and includes practical, physical training, the development of individual practices, and the interpretation of circus arts.

Programme: Bachelor of Circus Arts, Year 2, term 4


Course: Performance and Interpretation (15 ECTS)


Course Aims: 


Using their knowledge of their individual circus disciplines and other stage arts, students are expected to contribute to the creation and production of a final performance, as well as to appear on stage as part of an ensemble. 

This module includes two different performance experiences: 


  • The Ensemble project (directed) 

  • and Short Shows (self-directed) 


The first performance is the Ensemble Project, a collaborative creation with a director, who chooses and oversees the direction of creation, performance, and who is the final directorial ‘lens’ through which the performance passes. This project is allotted 5 weeks for creation and production. In part, this project prepares students to work with a director.


Ensemble Project Brief


This long-form directed performance provides students with experience of working with an external creator (director) for practice and observation, experience of show creation and production conditions, experience of receiving direction, experience of collaboration with students of other production and performance disciplines, performance in front of external audience, participation in the load-in, load-out of a circus production, and other production activities, as well as increasing their stage experience.


Using knowledge of their circus disciplines and other stage arts, students are expected to contribute to the creation and production of a final performance, as well as appear on stage as part of the performance ensemble. 


Learning Outcomes:


  1. demonstrate in practice a deepended ability to perform different types of circus performances, integrating circus discipline and stage performing techniques. 

  2. compose and perform a circus performance/act in which techniques from the Performance and Interpretation Course are integrated with the student's circus discipline.


Assessment Criteria:


  • Pass: The student has achieved the specified learning outcomes

  • Fail: The student has not achieved the specified learning outcomes 




  • Weeks 2, 3, 4: short workshops with directors

  • Weeks 5-7: creation

  • Week 8: performances



About The Project:

The 2023 production (titled ‘Cave Inn’) was collectively co-created by 15 students and 3 creator/directors who also acted as co-producers, stage managers, photographers and technical support during the performances. The 3 creator/directors were all graduates of SKH programmes and were chosen because their approach to contemporary circus work resonates with interests (aesthetic and socio-cultural) of the student group. The production was additionally supported by the SKH rigging and technical team, the teaching staff, the Circus-subject Co-ordinator and the Head of the BA programme. With consideration of available performance spaces, diverse physical disciplinary expertise, and a common desire to integrate audience in a non-traditional format, the students and creator/directors devised a performance that invited audiences through interactive, flexible performance moments. 


In their native languages, students guided audiences to comfortably relocate towards shifting perspectives of the performances and the performance space. Audience members were invited to directly interact with the various disciplinary apparatuses and the student-artists themselves. The considerate care of the students for each other and audience members throughout the show created an atmosphere of inclusion and amazement, enabling spectators to receive the playful, aesthetic exceptionalism presented by each artist in their specialty domains.



Assessment was both formative and summative. Formative assessment took place during the six public performances: students met with the director/creators and the Head of Programme to refine the audience experience of specific performance moments. Examples include refining transitions between discipline presentations, ensuring the audience’s emotional safety watching high-risk activities, and choreographing moments of interaction between performers to sustain an integrated aesthetic experience. This dialogic assessment served to ensure that student’s artistic intentions were received by the audience and aligned with the emotional-aesthetic intentions of the performance as a whole. 


Through this process students participate in assessing their own contributions in relationship to a whole performance and the broader audience (and thereby also prepare for entry to the professional practice). Summative assessment occurred after completion of the performances. SKH fosters artistic exploration by using pass/fail evaluations. This encourages artists to take risks and then discuss the outcome without fear of ‘failing’ their experiment. Through involvement in the performance, all students completed the core learning outcomes of using collaborative creation methods to compose performance, integrating different stage performance techniques with their primary discipline techniques, and demonstrating deepened performance ability. Yet, we consider achievement of the learning outcomes to be the first step in the assessment process. 


Group and individual feedback discussions with the students encourage reflection on artistic and logistical processes and outcomes. Students self-assess in these discussions by considering the different ways they contributed to the whole experience, as well as recognising where their peers and support network of technical, production and coordination staff also play essential roles. While it is an enjoyable experience to have an artistic proposition well-received by an enthusiastic audience, we consider successful completion of the project to include the steps of 1) participation, 2) presentation, 3) self-assessment, and 4) group reflection. These steps ensure that students bring their acquired knowledge into their diverse futures with complex understanding of the interrelationships inherent in every artistic project.

Examples of good practice in Higher Performing Arts Education

Teaching, learning and assessment within performing arts (in this context, the term ‘performing arts’ is intended to encompass the wide range of constituent performance disciplines, including, inter alia, dance, circus, theatre/drama, performance, live art, etc.),  aims at the development of both intellectual and embodied knowledge, as well as a range of practical and/or technical skills associated with each performance or production discipline which constitute the subject field. The teaching, learning and assessment methodologies employed on any performing arts programme are aligned to the specific conception of the individual study programme and its learning goals.

The learning experience is often delivered through practical training exercises that are also designed to strengthen the students’ ability to engage effectively in collaborative creative processes, where the individual also concomitantly relies upon, and contributes to, the co-creation of performance and/or production outcomes. Learning processes often have an emphasis on contact teaching that both fosters specialised skills (for example, voice and movement training) and promotes a dynamic pedagogic interaction between students and teachers in the context of problem-based learning scenarios that are designed to replicate established professional practices and protocols. However, this pedagogic interaction requires close attention to the efficacy of how it is conducted, and constant (re-)evaluation of the methods used. 

The forms of practical training, and the nature of the performances and productions, through which assessment and the associated systems of feedback between students’ and the supervisors of the learning experience, is determined by the higher education institution that is conducting the studies according to the stated intentions of the provision, either as a preparation for entry to professional performing arts practices, or in order to apply the skills and knowledge gained to other fields of employment or further study.



Teaching and learning activities will usually be contextually specific, collaborative, and informed by practices that are typical of, and relevant to, the diverse disciplines that constitute the contemporary performing arts field. Teaching methods are designed to be appropriate to both the individual and collective needs of students. Practical training frequently forms a key part of performing arts study programmes, to enable the students to acquire the practical experience needed for professional creative work. Practical training is usually undertaken in learning facilities that reflect those in which professional performing arts activities take place. 

Teaching will normally take place in a variety of continually evolving contexts that seek to simulate established professional practices, including an appropriate balance of workshops, rehearsals, productions, practical classes, laboratory/studio-based practice, screenings, lectures, seminars, tutorials and web-based interactions between students and teachers. A special emphasis is frequently placed on direct/contact method of teaching that facilitates the development of individual artistic ability, creativity, psychosomatic sensibility, depending on the study orientation of the individual programme.

Studying takes place according to the nature of the specific programme in the form of lectures, seminars, exercises, self-directed study and related artistic/creative activities.  The size of study groups corresponds to the nature of study in the given programme or course; it takes into account the emphasis on contact teaching, individual approach to each of the students as well as the possibility of forming creative teams and the group co-operation or co-creation within a specific creative/artistic process. Students are also provided with relevant theoretical knowledge and are encouraged to reflect upon and analyse a range of cultural contexts as well as to position their creative work within diverse artistic and cultural contexts. Moreover, students are introduced to a range of artistic research methods. 


Experiential learning, and the development of embodied knowledge, is a key principle of study within many performing arts disciplines. Students engaging in this study field develop subject-specific knowledge and skills in a learning environment that enables them to develop a commensurate degree of experience. Students will normally experience both tutor-led learning, which may also include the participation of professional practitioners, and self-directed methods of study. The trajectory of study moves towards increasing levels of independence and autonomy, thereby encouraging an ongoing and positive attitude towards lifelong learning.

Learning will normally take place in a variety of continually evolving contexts, including an appropriate balance of workshops, rehearsals, productions, practical classes, laboratory/studio-based practice, screenings, lectures, seminars, tutorials and web-based interactions between students and teachers. These interactions between students and teachers are often characterised by some or all of the following:

  • group and individual learning

  • work-based learning of varying types (professional placements or independent industry study)

  • tutor-led, practitioner-led, student-led, and/or self-directed study

  • use of subject/discipline-specific and generic technologies

  • resource-based learning (studio, workshop, laboratory, library, archive, internet)

  • technique and skills-based learning through intensive studio-based activity and individual or group practice

  • experience of relevant events (performances, installations, masterclasses, auditions, screenings, etc.).


A diverse range of assessment types are used within the performing arts study field and are applied in ways that reflect the specific nature of the discipline being studied. The design of curricula ensures that students are appropriately prepared to engage with the chosen modes of assessment and the related feedback strategies. Assessment strategies are designed to form an integral part of the overall learning experience and to ensure that the learning outcomes identified by programme components can be met. Forms of assessment recognise the opportunities presented by a wide spectrum of learning needs and abilities. 

In creative disciplines, a special emphasis is placed on individual assessment of the creative performance/scenic form presented within final examinations and on the provision of an adequate feedback during the creative process with regard to the development of unique personal artistic, creative, and psychosomatic prerequisites of a student. There is frequently a need to assess the individual contribution of students to collaborative and/or co-created project outcomes, as well as to assess a student’s ongoing progress through an extended practical learning process through forms of continual assessment – which may also include an element of peer-assessment. Each of these forms of assessment, which are regularly used in combination, require both careful design and a close ongoing monitoring by teaching staff, in order to ensure their veracity.     

Opportunities for formative and summative assessment are provided in a variety of modes, which assess critical understanding, knowledge, ability, technique, creativity, artistry, and application. Opportunities are often provided for self and peer assessment as a means of increasing the value of the learning process.

While the assessment of programme and unit/module learning outcomes are designed to accurately measure the degree to which learning outcomes have been achieved by students, they also help teaching staff to reflect on their pedagogic practices and help determine future changes in the processes of studies, and thereby create preconditions for the ongoing improvement of the programme and the study field. 

Learning, Teaching and Assessment

Learning, Teaching and Assessment in Higher Performing Arts Education and Examples of good practice

Student workload & ECTS

In the CPAD European Higher Education sector Bachelor programmes normally vary between 180 and 240 ECTS-credits. Master programmes normally vary between 90 and 150 ECTS-credits. When specified, Doctoral/PhD programmes usually last three years and have 180 ECTS. Some countries, like the United Kingdom, use a different credit system, however, the education level and experience is comparable.​

Quality Enhancement

In working on the qualification framework and defining the learning outcomes/competences for the three cycles the SAG stresses the outcomes are not to be taken as prescribing the content and curriculum of individual arts academies/universities programmes but helping these institutions to ensure the quality and standards of their programmes. 


In developing the quality framework the SAG has adhered to the following values:


  • commitment to respect and promote cultural, artistic, and pedagogical diversity.

  • the needs of society and the world of work for the development of creativity and generative critical thinking, which are key attributes of higher arts education.

  • operating a review methodology based on peer review, in which the participation of students, relevant professional bodies and/or employers as stakeholders is embedded.


The CPAD SAG stresses the content and distinctiveness of the programmes are: 


  • the primary responsibility of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in assuring the quality of their own provision.

  • being responsive to the diversity of higher education systems, institutions, programmes and students. 

  • taking into account the needs and expectations of students, other stakeholders and society. 


In institutions developing their internal and external quality assurance policy and processes the SAG recommends:


  • to promote student-centred approaches to learning, teaching and assessment.

  • to develop a quality culture for excellence and its continuous enhancement.

  • to guarantee the equivalence of minimum threshold standards for any academic qualification offered in the EHEA.

  • to continually enhance the student learning experience to achieve the highest standards; 

  • to operate a review methodology based on peer review, in which the participation of students, relevant professional bodies and/or employers as stakeholders isembedded;

  • to support staff research and encourage the transfer of knowledge gained through it back into teaching and the curriculum.

  • to instil trust and confidence in the processes of quality assurance and enhancement. 

  • to build institutional capacity for high quality internal review and enhancement.

  • to ensure that all its activities are underpinned by explicit criteria and transparent processes.

  • to ensure that all its processes are open to external scrutiny.

  • to establish a range of formally verified external and international reference points and/or criteria (primarily guided by the 2015 ESG).

  • to ensure that the outcomes of its accreditation and assessment processes have formal status, are decided independently and are publicly available.

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